Anger from Labour activists as public ownership conference motion blocked

Elliot Chappell

Update, 8pm September 20th: The appeal has been unsuccessful. Chair of Labour for a Green New Deal, Chris Saltmarsh, described it as a “disgraceful, anti-democratic decision” and argued that “Labour’s bureaucracy is being used to shut down debate”.

The Labour leadership has been accused of “bending party rules and breaking leadership pledges” after the conference arrangements committee (CAC) ruled out of order a motion in support of public ownership.

The motion proposed by Labour for a Green New Deal, which called for “democratic public ownership models across the economy, led by national public ownership of key sectors” – including energy, rail, mail, water and manufacturing green technologies – was ruled out of order at a meeting of the CAC on Friday afternoon.

The CAC is responsible for deciding the schedule for Labour’s annual conference, which is taking place in Liverpool later this month. The body is crucial in determining the timetable and topics debated on the conference floor.

Each Constituency Labour Party (CLP), affiliated trade union and socialist society can make one submission to the conference – either a policy motion or a constitutional amendment. The deadline for constitutional amendments, also known as rule changes, passed in June. The deadlines for motions was September 15th.

Seven CLPs had submitted Labour for a Green New Deal’s motion, but the CAC decided that it could not be considered at the annual gathering of delegates because the “covers more than one topic”. Labour for a Green New Deal is appealing the decision. A result is expected on Tuesday.

Labour for a Green New Deal spokesperson Chris Saltmarsh said that the Labour leadership is “further trashing trust in politics” by “bending party rules and breaking leadership pledges”. Starmer ran to be Labour leader with ten pledges, one of which stated: “Support common ownership of rail, mail, energy and water, end outsourcing in our NHS, local government and justice system.”

Saltmarsh said: “By stifling calls for public ownership of utilities, Labour is going against public sentiment. From ‘Red Wall’ swing seats to Tory heartlands, there’s enormous support for bringing energy under public ownership.

“Labour members and the wider public are in agreement over these key issues. Labour is missing an opportunity to build an election-winning coalition, and to meet the scale and urgency of the climate crisis.”

A motion proposed by Labour for a Green New Deal was similarly ruled out of order ahead of the last annual conference, in 2021, for covering too many topics. The motion was ruled back in, however, after an appeal.

Saltmarsh said today that “the technicality has been misapplied”, arguing that the motion proposed this year covers “approximately the same scope” as the one ultimately deemed to be in order ahead of the last Labour Party conference.

He added: “Secondly, the argument that discussing various sectors and areas in the context of climate ignores a simple fact: climate relates to everything, and we must change everything if we are to change the climate.”

The motion proposed by Labour for a Green New Deal last year, which called on the party to back a “socialist green new deal”, was passed by delegates by a show of hands. Card votes are taken when a show of hands is too close to call.

A Momentum spokesperson described the decision by the CAC on Friday, to rule out the motion from Labour for a Green New Deal, as “damaging” and warned that the move will “hurt Labour’s standing with younger and climate-conscious voters”.

They added: “The green new deal has been consistently supported by the vast majority of Labour members, during and after Corbyn’s leadership, and has been backed by Keir Starmer himself. It is a mainstream policy with popular support.

“Just last year it was incorrectly ruled out on the same basis, and was soon after reinstated, before being passed on Conference floor. Instead of revisiting old process debates that have already been settled, we should be having a full and proper debate on the solutions we need to tackle the climate and cost of living crises, above all public ownership. The green new deal should be ruled back in on appeal and members should be given the chance to debate it at conference.”

Below is the full text of Labour for a Green New Deal’s motion.

Energy bills have skyrocketed alongside high inflation and stagnant wages.

Energy companies report huge profits while emissions rise.

The profiteering private sector is a barrier to decarbonisation and tackling inequality.

Democratic public ownership is crucial to a socialist Green New Deal which eliminates emissions and brings down bills.

Devolving powers to the UK’s regions and nations is necessary to develop democratic models of ownership and control.

A state-coordinated industrial strategy for:

  • rapid, just energy transition
  • eliminating regional inequalities
  • creating millions of good green jobs
  • ending the cost-of-living crisis
  • ensuring wealth is owned democratically

Introducing democratic public ownership models across the economy, led by national public ownership of key sectors, including:

  • energy
  • mail
  • rail
  • water
  • manufacturing green technologies
  • finance
  • Promoting public-municipal enterprises, worker-ownership and democratic control of firms, including:
  • buses
  • retrofitting
  • construction

The devolution of powers to regions, municipalities and nations to finance and create new public companies, including for public transport.

Democratic accountability, including through the participation of users, workers, trade unions and communities in the management of publicly owned industry.

Workers’ full participation in transition planning, including by repealing all anti-trade union laws and supporting alternative corporate plans.

Creating a Government body supporting the expansion of cooperative and community ownership of land and everyday production and services.

Using the procurement powers of an expanded public sector to promote justice and decarbonisation in global supply chains, including the right of peoples and nations to self-determination and to control of their own resources.

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